Revision: Returning to Intentions for DIY Book Finishers


I’ve got a very messy rough draft of a novel, so now its time to assess what’s missing, with an eye on filling in the holes. In order to do this right, I return to my intentions for this novel, which are recorded mostly in the sketchbook where I draft timelines and play with “what ifs,” etc. This is what Mary Adkins calls the “sandbox” in her 4 Notebooks Method

I think it’s a good idea, but I’ve created a few drawbacks by not disciplining myself to only write notes in the sandbox, and only write scenes and some summary in the notebooks, as per her instructions. One problem is that I freewrite to warm up and move into scene writing–I  love freewriting (and am a fan of Peter Elbow who coined the term:,but this is where it gets messy.

I can’t always delineate the moment when I cross from freewriting to scene writing and switch notebooks at just the right moment. Some scenes end up in the sandbox, and lots of freewriting clutters up the notebooks. Like the kid who can’t keep the sand toys separated from the indoor toys, I get things all get mixed together. Instead of 4 neat notebooks, I’ve got 12… plus the sandbox.

4 notebooks have turned into 12
The 4 Notebooks Method multiplied

Transcribed into Scrivener that is over 120K words. So my next step is see what I can cut. Given what’s missing, I estimate cutting 30-50K words, which hits me like news of a major surgery, one I must perform…on myself. Ok, that is just too dramatic. I’m going to try some other thoughts here…

Meanwhile, I’m happy to say that at the end of the week I’ve made it through my sandbox and put notes and scenes in their proper places (I love Scrivener for creating places where I can find all the moving pieces again; more on that later). Now I’m ready to write the missing scenes.

Where are you in your writing journey, and what are your creative writing challenges? I’ll continue to blog through the process of revision as part of the DIY Book Finishers (a support and accountability group we created on Facebook after Book Finish Bootcamp with Rhonda Douglas of Resilient Writers and I’d love to hear from you.